It’s a late morning ride into downtown and the bus smells like wet dog and disappointment. Heads are low, and a chorus of sighs bounce around the caravan, as contagious as yawning. Her heels announced her arrival. With the distinctive tread of knee-high leather boots sporting four-inch heels, she climbs aboard and walks the aisle like a catwalk in Milan. Her eyes, the color of ancient amber, never stray from her forward gaze. In sharp contrast to the rest of the ridership, there is an optimistic determination in her face. A slight knowing smile graces her burgundy glossed lips. With a clickety-clack, her beaded auburn braids swirl about her, as she takes a seat, with all our eyes upon her. Like ripples in a stagnant pond, the riders closest to her relax a little and heads lift, ever so. Within moments, the entire bus feels lighter, less dread-filled, and riders look at the passing scenery, smile, and have a lighter step as they come and go.
Hope takes many forms. And some days, she’s a powerful woman with kick-ass boots, ready for anything.
We ride through the dark downpour. The heater is blasting throughout the metal caravan, which creates the feeling that one has a fever, rather than anything pleasant. It’s a crowded morning, full of dripping umbrellas and bleary-eyed riders. She is sitting in a bank of seats facing sideways, dressed all in white – coat, blouse, long skirt, and boots – and all of which has been splashed, hither and yon, with brackish water. Her straight, black hair shines with the damp as it cascades over the sullied, used-to-be-white shoulders of her coat. With eyes closed, her face is contorted into a visage of concern with furrowed brow and a tightening around her eyes and mouth. Her breathing is deep, like that of someone fast asleep. And then I see three others, similarly decked out in white, seeming to be deeply asleep sitting upright. They all appear to be engaged in some sort of struggle in their dreaming state. As the bus rolls past Puget Sound, the water churning with the onslaught of rain, all four of their struggles intensify, and, for a moment, I could see massive shapes out in the deep, dark waters struggling to emerge. But they are kept at bay by something luminous and shimmering. It isn’t often that deep water demigods stir in their slumber and attempt to exert their influences beyond their watery homes, but when they do, it is good to know that a cadre of shamans are on the 120 to keep that particular door firmly locked.
Everything about him is precise. He sits, tucked into a window seat, with his perfectly polished oxfords equidistant from each other, his feet are flat upon the floor, and his back, ramrod straight. His hands are delicate, pale and perfectly manicured. They rest, folded, on the leather briefcase resting on his lap, with buckles shining in the gray light. Round, gold-rimmed glasses perch on his face which, like his hands, is a study in unblemished, pale, and finely featured. And his hair, a shade this side of blond, is neatly trimmed and has just enough product in it to lay exactly as it should. His world, inasmuch as we see it riding with us on the morning bus, is in perfect order.
Then she climbs aboard at the last stop before downtown. We hear her long before we catch a glimpse of what can only be described as a human tornado. Coughing, laughing, and bellowing a weird sort of “thank you” at the driver all at the same time, she hurls herself down the aisle. Her umbrella almost takes out one passenger, while two of her three bags solidly make “thwump-thwump” noises as they slam into others on her journey. Spying the empty seat next to the delicately arranged man, she flings herself down, her umbrella-as-saber making slight contact with his perfect hair, and mussing it…slightly. Her array of noise, mess, and accouterments assail him at every level, and his world slowly unravels in the presence of this calamitous being.
Chaos Theory is alive and well on the 120 to downtown.
His rust-colored long coat flares out dramatically as he launches himself down the aisle of the bus. With one hand, he steadies his step by grabbing the railings, while the other hand is aloft, steadying the pile of hats on his head. There is a knit ski hat, a baseball cap, a slightly misshapen homburg, and an oilskin covered fedora. With the sigh of a thousand injustices, he sits. He quietly rides along, with only the occasional growl of discontent. Madness is not required to be a hatter, but being sanity-adjacent helps.
Swaddled in blue scarves, she bites her words into the phone.
“Don’t tell me that,” she growls, “just get it done!”The advent of these sleek phones has taken away the ability to dramatically slam a receiver into the hook, but she makes an attempt by stabbing her phone so hard that her seat mate whips her head around to make sure the next viscous poke isn’t aimed at her. Countess Blue Scarf catches her glance and takes the moment to roll her eyes and seek commiseration from the stranger next to her.
“Humph,” she snorts, “sometimes you have to just put your foot down.”
“Mmmhmm…” replies the seat neighbor, now both annoyed and scared.
It’s an interesting management parable, playing out on the 120. Yes, there are indeed times to be firm. Yes, you may have to be direct and even blunt. And, because we’re human, yes, sometimes you’re going to be frustrated, and maybe even a bit pissed off. But remember that your job, ultimately, is help your team succeed. So be clear and forthright. But don’t be a buttknob. And never, EVER be a buttknob in public.
Here endeth the lesson.